Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pet Euthanasia: Making a Really Tough Decision

One of the saddest movies I ever remember watching is Old Yeller. I'm sure many of you who are my age will remember sobbing through the end when the young boy has to shoot his pet dog because it has rabies. The irony is that Yeller contracted this disease while protecting the boy's family from a rabid wolf and then the parents make the boy kill Yeller.

Yeah, this Disney movie ranks right up there with Bambi for making children cry.

Making the choice to end a pet's life is just the way it is when you own one. Whether it be rabies or just sickness and old age, there comes a time when you may have to euthanize your cherished animal.

This week was our turn to make this decision. A week ago, I took our 13-year-old dog Roxy to the vet because she had lost weight and wasn't eating as much as she once did. The vet said she thought the problem was tooth decay, but the next day, she called to tell me that the test results indicated lymphoma. 

While the vet said something about high calcium levels and more testing, I started to cry and I couldn't stop. Through the sobs, I told her  that we were already battling cancer at home, that I was old enough to realize Roxy was a dog, not a human, and that I would wait to make a decision. After we ended the phone call, I sat in my car in the school parking lot and continued to cry. How was I going to handle this with my son Drew, who has Down syndrome. Drew was very attached to Roxy, and I knew he would be heartbroken. How would our other dog, Sweet Pea, react to her constant friend being gone?

The crappy thing about being a pet owner is having to be the sole decision maker for them. They can't tell us their wants and needs about life or death, so we have to experience the pain and guilt about whatever decision we make.

Over the next week, I vacillated between making the final appointment with the vet and watching Roxy to see if she were hurting. During that time, I looked for information to help me make the decision and feel at peace with my choice.

I found several articles that gave reasons to euthanize, and this graphic is a good summary of the major points:

I finally decided that it wasn't right to watch Roxy starve herself to death. She had all but quit eating and had trouble walking. I knew that if I were in her place, I'd want someone to help me. 

Roxy, I hope I made the right decision. I hope you are at peace. I hope you are in a place where there are no fireworks, gun shots or thunder to frighten you and that there are lots of squirrels and cats to chase. Thank you for the miles you walked with me and the barks you gave when a stranger approached the house. You were a great friend to all of us.